Summer heat can be especially uncomfortable and dangerous for pregnant women and babies. However, there are some tips that can make it more bearable and safer.
Beating the Heat During Your Pregnancy
When you are pregnant, your body temperature is already slightly elevated, and you are more heat intolerant than normal. So, if possible, stay indoors with air conditioning if there is a heat advisory and the heat index is in the 90s or above. The heat index is what the outside temperature feels like due to a combination of the actual temperature and the humidity. Just make sure that you cool off gradually. Turning the air conditioning down a little at a time gives your body time to adapt.
To beat the heat, make sure you stay hydrated, especially if you are perspiring heavily. However, milk, orange juice, and sports drinks could be a better choice than water because they replace electrolytes that are lost when you perspire. In addition, drinking too much water can further reduce the concentration of electrolytes. A word of caution, you have already become dehydrated by the time you feel thirsty. One eight-ounce glass of fluids for every hour you are outdoors is a suggestion. Low electrolytes can lead to tired, cramped muscles and, in some instances, unconsciousness. Go inside, lie down, and drink fluids if you feel weak, tired, or dizzy. Call your doctor if you do not recover quickly.
When you feel too hot, a cool rag on your forehead, the back of your neck, or the top of your head can help make you feel cooler. To stay cool in the summer, fill a squirt bottle with water to help cool yourself. Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose fitting clothing in breathable, natural fabrics. Follow your doctor’s advice about exercising, but avoid the heat of the day and consider swimming if you are allowed. Otherwise, take a cool shower. The heat will also cause your feet to swell even more, so sit down and elevate your feet. Limiting your intake of salt will help with this issue, but do not eliminate it completely. Salt is a source of iodide which is needed by your baby. During the hottest part of the day, shut blinds and curtains to keep out the heat. To help cool your house, hang damp towels in front of open windows or place one over a floor or window fan. To help you sleep, freeze rice in socks or use soft gel ice packs placing them beneath your sheets under your lower back, neck, and legs. Another option is to put sheets and pillow cases in plastic bags in the freezer to cool them.
Limit your exposure to the sun, especially at mid-day, and use sunblock or a high SPF sunscreen. When you are pregnant, you are more prone to sunburn and a condition called the “mask of pregnancy” that causes brown spots on the face due to increased melanin production from exposure to the sun.
Prioritize and ask for help. Sometimes we think that so many things need to be done, but actually, sometimes some things can be postponed. For those things that can not be postponed, ask for help, and ask your labor doula for more tips.
Help Your Baby Beat the Heat
Babies do not perspire and can become overheated quickly. Many of the same tips that help you stay cool in the summer will help your baby. Babies, especially those under six months, should not really be out in the sun and the heat. So keep your babies safe from the sun and heat. You and your Newborn Care Specialist can plan so that your newborn doula can stay with your baby while you run errands during the summer heat. If you do take your baby out, make sure their sensitive skin is covered with a long sleeve shirt, long pants, a hat, and sunglasses. Your baby’s clothes and baby carrier liner should be made from lightweight, light colored, natural fibers. Do not forget the sunscreen for babies six months or older. You should also have some water to sprinkle on your baby’s forehead to keep her cool. If your baby starts looking flushed, get her some place cool quickly.
For hydrating your baby, I recommend using formula and or breast milk. Just offer it a little more frequently. Your baby should have about 50 percent more formula to prevent dehydration. For six month and older babies, freeze it in small cubes and give it to them in a mesh tether. During the summer heat, give your baby an extra mid-day soap-less bath letting her play in the water to cool off.
If you have to move your baby to a cooler room at night for sleeping, avoid changing the night time routine in any other way.
Ask your baby nurse for more tips, but if possible, to keep your babies safe from the sun and heat, let them stay indoors.